Wednesday, March 16, 2011

All That Chatter

Lately I've been torn when it comes to how much of an internet presence we should have.  I find so many of my good friends in photography, in motherhood, in our experience with the adoption through Facebook. I keep up with old childhood friends, I post pictures and I even talk to our family members who live out of state through Facebook. It's a good thing to have for the kids because many of their teachers are on there and even a couple of them on there link to things like due dates for assignments, particularly for Mackenzie.

But more and more often, it seems like having the immediate details of our lives online is only causing problems. For example, I may post about being sick, and then you know how time goes...1 month feels like just a day when you're in your 30's. So imagine I post 2 months later that I'm sick again, the comments NEVER seem to quit that say things like "wow you guys are sick all the time" and "jeez, didn't you guys just get over that?!"  In reality, no, we didn't just get over that. Months ago we may have but really, what family of 8 is completely sniffle free for many months at a time?  Not many, I can assure you.

That example isn't something I'm listing specifically because it causes me grief, not at all, but it's a perfect way to illustrate how our fluffy and light status updates can open a small window that others can use to see into our lives. Sadly, this window only shows 1 room in our house! Maybe 2?

Likewise, it allows us to be short and opinionated with others with almost no recourse. We can say what we think about a status update by quipping a response to others, and while I admit that most of the time it's positive, how many times do we say things we shouldn't because really, what are our words?  They're black lines and circles on a screen.  Right? 

Having kids of all ages in our home, we have to teach using many methods. We find that laughter and visual aids work for everyone. A few years ago when Harper was small and we were trying to teach a lesson to the kids about carefully choosing the words we speak to others, I found a little way to do this so that everyone could understand and also so that we could keep their attention.

Enter lesson called "Make Your Words Soft and Sweet".  In the lesson plan I found online, it suggested glueing mini marshmallows on a board for "Soft" and sugar cubes for the "Sweet" part. We thought it might be better illustrated through an activity. Which activity?  Um, throwing stuff. Seriously, is there anything better than throwing stuff at each other and not getting in trouble for it?  I vote "no".

I went outside to the neighbor's yard and got some small gravel and rocks and put them in a bucket. Then I put marshmallows in the same bucket.  Then I put a single marshmallow in a small cup and a 1/2 cup or so of vinegar in another one. You can imagine where it went from here right?  Words need to be soft so they don't hurt, and sweet not bitter because one day you might have to eat them. Got it.

I try to explain to my kids sometimes when they get offended by something someone said that maybe we should look at the words we said to them just before they said it to us. Were they careful to listen to how they said something? Even within my own home this is an issue.  Mackenzie will come up and say that Jonah called her something really mean, and then I'll say "well what did you say to him before that?" and she'll repeat it and it's ALWAYS something really gently said with a sweet smile. Puh-lease. Ok, so how about we go over it exactly how it was said?  Were there words that cause hurt? Point blame? Seriously kids, let's learn this lesson again shall we?  Looks like we might have to do the marshmallow and vinegar lesson again.

The internet is a big playground. It can be used for good!  There are so many things on there that I love, yet so many things I don't love.  Just now I saw Casey playing a game online with buddies that were put into a group to play with him I heard many of his cute friends from school!  Their talk was innocent and sweet, and then that particular round ended. The "lobby" in between the last game and the next came on and immediately I heard some new, stranger of a young boy's voice calling them all "Faggots".  He wasn't someone from their school or even this state but that's how it works. This is the internet people.

Whether it's a blog, or Facebook or whatever, we need to guard ourselves. Email, texting, instant messaging, these all fall into the same category for me. As if the world wasn't hard enough to live in, always dealing with people at work or school, church and the store, now we're ALL in the face of everyone who wants to step in our online "door".

Words are hard enough to block in the real word let alone on the computer monitor. Next time you're saying something online ask yourself, would you really say that to this person's face? There's the real question.

Now I have to go put Harper to bed and while I'm at it, I get to explain to him why it's ok to pinch people tomorrow but not every other day of the year. Wish me luck.


AnDe said...

Nicely put. Its sad how mean people can be online just because they think they're anonymous or feel like they have more power through the keyboard. It seems like with all the opportunities to update a status or tweet or blog, people try so hard to individualize themselves to be noticed and well, its not always positive. I'll admit that I usually get more nervous posting something online than telling a person about it face to face just because I've had negative and flat out rude comments directed at me and it hurts. (right now I'm fighting the urge to hold down backspace, but because I promised to comment more, I'm gonna post this)

Alli Easley said...

No AnDe, I'm so glad you did comment. I know exactly how you feel and sometimes words are interpreted without the intended wink or smile and really, words are emotionless. The internet is so hard to use for communication because the human part of it gets lost.